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from a mathematic and acoustic point of view, part I, by Thomas Váczy Hightower The focus will be on the acoustic laws behind the musical scales and how numbers and mathematic plays a part in creation of the intervals in the octave. Which factors have significance for creating a musical scale? Why is the division of the octave so basically common in different musical tradition, and what make them variously? Why is the ancient Greek Pythagorean scale basically identical with the old Chinese scale? What cause the modern Western musical scale, the Equal Temperament, to be so "disharmonic" compared to the Eastern scales? Music has a often played an important part in shaping a culture. Some say that music is the hidden power in a culture. In ancient societies it was considered as a serious public matter, a fundament for the culture. The musical scale itself and the right tuning of intervals can make all the differences in how emotions and ideas are expressed. It also insure that humans are in accordance with earthly as well as celestial influence. The more meta physical aspects of music and sound and its influence of the level of consciousness and healing can be studied in my second part, The Musical Octave II, where I will mix different levels and categories into a larger picture. In this thesis I will perform an analysis of four different musical tradition and their basic scales:
• • • •
the ancient Chinese the Indian musical tradition the old Greek music the following European musical scales.
By looking at the many tuning systems worldwide, one common factor is outstanding, the octave. It derives from Latin and means the eighth. It is the 8th step in the diatonic scale consisting of 7 tones, containing of 5 full tones and 2 semi tones. The eighth tone in the diatonic scale, which is the most common in the world, complete the octave on a pitch, that in frequency is the double of the fundamental tone. This universal unit, that divide the realm of sound with the factor 2, can be subdivided in three basic ways:
1) By a geometric progression, with any number of equal intervals, such as the common Western mode, the Equal Temperament with 12 semitines a and other numbers.
A geometric progression is a sequence in which each term (after the first) is determined by multiplying the preceding term by a constant. This constant is called the common ratio of the arithmetic progression. The octave sequence is also a geometric progression; so is the golden section.
2) By proportions with low number ratios, E.g.. Just Intonation with its triads of major Thirds, or by other harmonic relations to the tonic (Modal music), E.g.. Pentatonic or Septonic (E.g. Indian music).
System of proportions are used in Modal music, E.g. the harmonic mean and the arithmetical mean in the division of an octave.
3) By generating Fifths, E.g. Pythagorean Tuning or The Chinese Scale.
There are hybrids too, such as the. Mean tone Temperaments.
The habits of hearing The reason there are so many different ways to divide the octave and display such a bouquet of scales, can be found in the fact that there are no formula there can fit the octave perfectly - unless some notes or keys sound disharmonious. The different ratios expressed in numbers are prime interrelated so a common divisor is not possible in an octave. Different musical traditions embrace this schism depending of what they consider best fit for their musical expression. The culture in which the musical scale has emerged is a profound reflection of that particularly culture. The Eastern music tradition consider the fine tuned intervals of much more importance than the Western, which prefer harmonious chords in any key first. Consequently there are intervals which are perceived consonant in the West but are considered dissonant in the East. What it comes down to is habits. A musical scale is deeply ingrained. It shapes the way one hears tones in succession in a fixed pattern. There has to be at least three elements for a definition of a mode, just as three notes are needed to define a chord. In the modulating cyclic systems, where very sound is mobile, it is necessary to repeat the "body of harmony", (tonic, fifth or fourth and octave) in order to establish the meaning or mood of the note, but in the modal system one note alone, by changing its place, can produce the effect of a chord.
The modal frame, being fixed and firmly established in the memory of the listener, have no needs for constantly repeating the chords as in harmonic music, in order to express the numerical relationship. That shape of ingrained intervals comes more or less out of tune, when change of keys or transposition moves the frequencies up or down. It is the way enharmonic notes arise. Increasing the pitch with a half tone is not the same as decreasing with a half tone. It is two different notes. Expressed graphic the frequencies ratios behaves exponential - in a non linear curve - (which is displayed e.g. with logarithmic spacing of the frets on the neck of the guitar), so a discrepancy is produced by moving the set frame up or down. This discrepancy is expressed in the different commas such as the Pythagorean comma or the smaller Syntonic comma, (the comma of Didymos). The notion of harmony is different too. In the West the perception of harmony is "vertical" - meaning as chords played at once. The Eastern tradition of harmony is "horizontal". Each tone is carefully played and in time by attention add up by memory the harmonious chords. Law of acoustics Before we deal with the creations of musical scales, we have to dwell on the under laying foundation of scales, namely the physical laws of sounds. Acoustics is a branch of physic that is complicated and extensive, so I have only chosen - in a brief form - those parts we need to look at in order to understand the invention of musical scales. Sound wave Sound is vibrations, but 3 conditions have to be in place, if a sound can be heard: 1) The vibrating source for the sound, an oscillator. 2) A medium in which the sound can travel, such as air, water or soil. 3) A receiver for the sound, such as a functional ear or microphone. The sound wave is a chain reaction where the molecules of the medium by elastic beats push the other molecules in the longitudinal direction quiet similar to a long train getting a push from a locomotive. It is a longitudinal displacement of pressure and depressor in a molecular medium such as air or water. Any sound is initiated by an oscillator, which can be a huge range of devices and instruments. Each one have its own definite characteristic sound.
The sound waves shall not be mistaken as waves in water caused by e.g. a stone in a pond, though the picture appears to be alike. Sound waves are longitudinal, pressure waves - back and forth. Water waves are transverse, the main movements are up and down in a circular motion. Please note, that longitudinal, pressure waves will reappeared in the coming capture of logarithmic, standing pressure waves. Calculations of sound ratios Another feature in the realm of sound has the exponential factor, because sound as many other physical events behaves exponentially - not in straight lines. There are two ways to calculate ratios of frequencies: 1) One can work with the ratios as they are, often pretty long numbers, and the calcutation is a bit twisted, since adding two sound ratios one have to multiply; to subtract you have to divide, and to divide a sound ratio you have to take the square root.
A common example is the Equal Temperament where the octave has to be divided into12 equal parts. One semitones is the 12th. root of 2, (21/12) . If you want to divide the whole tone, 9/8, you have to take the square root of 9/8, or (9/8)½ = 3/2*2½ .
2) The other way, which makes the calculation more straight forward, is to convert the ratios into logarithmic unities such as cent or savarts. Logarithmic calculations makes it easier to operate with pitch intervals or frequencies ratios, since the size of a pitch interval is proportional not to the frequency ratio, but to the logarithm of the frequency ratio. This makes the calculation of ratios more simple by plain adding, subtraction and dividing. Savarts, named after a French physicist, and cents are both logarithmic systems developed to make it easy to compare intervals on a linear scale instead of using fractals or frequencies ratios (f2/f1). Savarts is calculated as the logarithm (base 10) of the frequency ratio and, for convenience, multiply with 1000. We shall then have an interval expressed in terms of a unit call savarts. The interval of an octave in savarts is the logarithm of 2 being 0.3010... equal to 301 savarts. Savarts has an advantage over the widely used American system, cents, since savarts is designed to fit any frequencies ratios (f2/f1), while cent by definition is based on one scale, the 12 semi-tones in the Equal Temperement.
Cent is also a logarithmic unit, which by definition is based on the tempered scale of 1200 cents/octave. A semitone is therefore 100 cents. This definition is a bit more complicated than the plain savart, since the excate relasionship of frequencies and cent is expresed by this formular: 1200 * (f2/f1) / log 2 = 3986 * log10 (f2/f1).
E.g. the interval of the perfect fifth in cent is the log10 3/2 = 0.1761.. The fifth in cents is 3986 * 0.1761 = 702 cent.
Logarithmic intervals and frequency distributions This portion is a bit of off the key with the musical scales. However, when I (in 2007) read about Cislenko's logarithmic intervals in the book, "Tools of Awareness", I felt immediately, that here is new, first class research about the basic concept of a scale. You have to go above the level of sound and reach up to the level of sizes of bodies. In 1980 the Russian, biologist Cislenko published, what probably is one of the most important biological discoveries of the 20th century. The published work was "Structure of Fauna and Flora with Regand to Body Size of Organisms" by Lomonosov-University Moscow. His work documents, that segments of increased species representation were repeated on the logarithmic line of body sizes in equal intervals (approx 0.5 units of the decadal logarithm).
The phenomenon is not explicable from a biological point of view. Why should mature individuals of amphibians, reptile, fish, bird and mammals of different species find it similarly advantageous to have a body size in the range of 8 - 12 cm, 33 - 55 cm or 1,5 - 2,4 m?
Cislenko assumed that competition in the plant and animal kingdoms occurs not only for food, water or other resources, but also for the best body sizes. Each species tries to occupy the advantageous intervals on the logarithmic scale where mutual pressure of competition also gave rise to crash zones. However, Cislenko, was not able to explain, why both the crash zones and the overpopulated intervals on the logarithmic line are always of the same length and occur in equal distance from each other. He was unable to figure out why only certain sizes would be advantageous for the survival of a species and what these advantages actually was. The logarithmic frequency distributions by Dr. Hartmut Mulier Cislenko's work inspired the German scientist Dr. Hartmut Müller to search for other scale-invariant distributions in physics. The phenomenon of scaling is well known to high-energy physics. Müller found similar frequency distributions along the logarithmic line of sizes, orbits, masses, and revolution periods of planets, moons and asteroids.
Being a mathematician and physicist he did not fail to recognize the cause for this phenomenon in the existence of a standing pressure wave in the logarithmic space of the scales/measures. Scale is what physics can measure. The result of a physical measurement is always a number with measuring unit -a physical quantity- Imagine that we have measured 12cm, 33cm and 90cm. Choosing 1 cm as the standard measure (etalon), we will get the number sequence 12 - 33 - 90 (without measurement unit, or as the physicist says: with unit 1). The distances between these numbers on the number line are 33 - 12 = 21 and 90 - 33 = 57. If we were to choose another measuring unit, such as the etalon with 49,5cm, the number sequence would be 0,24 - 0,67 - 1,82. The distance between the numbers have changed into 0,67 - 0,24 = 0,42 and 1,82 - 0,667 = 1,16. However, on the logarithmic line, the distance will not change no matter what measuring unit we choose. It will always remain constant.
In our example, this distance mounts to one unit of the natural logarithm (with radix e = 2,71828...): ln 33 - ln 12 ≈ ln 90 - ln 33 ≈ ln 0,67 - ln 0,24 ≈ ln 1,82 - ln 0,67 ≈ 1. Physical values of measurement therefore own the remarkable feature of logarithmic invariance (scaling). So, in reality any scale is a logarithm.
Any scale is a logarithm It is very interesting, that natural systems are not evenly distributed along the logarithmic line of the scales. There are "attractive" sections which are occupied by a great number of completely different natural systems; and there are "repulsive" sections that most natural systems will avoid. Growing crystals, organisms or populations that reach the limits of such sections on the logarithmic line, will either grow no more or will begin to disintegrate, or else will accelerate growth so as to overcome these sections as quickly as possible.
The institute for Space-Energy-Research i.m. Leonard Euler (IREF) was able to prove the same phenomenon also in demographics (stochastic of world-wide urban populations), economy (stochastic of national product, imports and exports worldwide) and business economy (stochastic of sales volume of large industrial and middle-class enterprises, stochastic of world-wide stock exchange values). The borders of "attractive" and "repulsive" segments on the logarithmic line of scales are easy to find because they recur regularly with a distance of 3 natural logarithmic units. This distance also defines the wavelength of the standing pressure wave: it is 6 units of the natural logarithm.
In fact, the world of scales is nothing else but the logarithmic line of numbers known to mathematics at least since the time of Napier (1600). What is new, however, is the fundamental recognition, that the number line
has a harmonic structure, which is itself the cause for the standing pressure wave.
Leonard Euler (1748) had already shown, that irrational and transcendental numbers can be uniquely represented as continued fractions in which all elements (numerators and denominators) will be natural numbers.
Prime numbers In 1928 Khintchine succeeded to provide the general proof. In the theory of numbers this means that all numbers can be constructed from natural numbers; the universal principle of construction being the continued fraction. All natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ... in turn are constructed from prime numbers, these being natural numbers which cannot be further divided without remainder, such as 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 19, 23, 29, 31, ... (traditionally 1 is not classed as a prime number although it fulfils all criteria). The distribution of prime numbers on the number line is so irregular, that so far no formula has been found, which would perfectly describe their distribution. Dr. Muller found that the distribution of numbers is indeed very irregular but only on the linear number line. On the logarithmic number line, large gaps of prime numbers recur in regular intervals. Gauss (1795) had already noticed this. The reason for this phenomenon is the existence of a standing density wave on the logarithmic number line. The node points of this density wave are acting as number attractors. This is where prime numbers will 'accumulate' and form composite numbers, i.e. non-primes, such as the 7 non-primes from 401 to 409.
Hence a "prime number gap" will occur in this place. Precisely where non-primes (i.e. prime clusters) arise on the logarithmic number line, there it is that matter concentrates on the logarithmic line of measures. This is not magic; it is simply a consequence of the fact that scales are logarithms, i.e. "just" numbers.
So the logarithmic line of scales is nothing else but the logarithmic number line. And because the standing pressure wave is a property of the logarithmic number line, it determines the frequency of distribution of matter on all physically calibrated logarithmic lines - the line of ratios of size, that of masses, of frequencies, of temperatures, velocities, etc.
Finding a node point on the logarithmic line is relatively easy, since the wavelength of the standing density wave on the logarithmic number line is known, and the calculation of all nodal points is done by a simple formula. The distance between adjacent node points is 3 units of the natural logarithm e.
The frequency ranges around 5 Hz, 101 Hz, 2032 Hz, 40,8 kHz, 820 kHz,
16,5 MHz, 330,6 MHz, etc. are predestined for energy transmission in finite media. This is also where the carrier frequencies for information transmission in logarithmic space are located. Frequencies that occur near a note point are very common in nature, as well as in technological applications. I will thank Dr. Willy de Maeyer for his help in this deeper scientific nature of scales. More of similar kind of mind puzzling statements in sound & music, can be found in my page, The Sound of Silence. Moving string Plucked strings exhibit transverse waves in a back and forth movements locally producing a pulse along the direction in which the wave itself travels with a speed depending of the mass of the string and its material but usually lower than airwaves. A good explanation is given by The University of New South Wales, Australia. (The frequency of the string itself is the same as the frequency of the air waves. The wavelength is different due to the dissimilarity in speed.) The lengths of the vibrating part of the string is inverse proportional to the frequencies. The period of oscillation = 1 / frequency. This is a important acoustic law, that applies to any conversion of period into frequencies. If you, e.g. divide an octave string with 2/3, the ratio of the sound will be 3/2 of an octave, a fifth. Oscillators To produce sounds a vibrating body, an oscillator, is needed. An oscillator can be any kind of a vibrating body from an atom to an astronomical object, but since we here are working with musical sounds, we are referring to oscillators such as musical instruments or the human voice box, that produce standing waves or periodic waves in a system of resonators that enhances and amplify the tone and generates harmonics. The heart and aorta formed a special resonant system when breathing is ceased. Then the heart beat seems to wait until the echo returns from the bifurcation (where the aorta forks out in the lower abdomen). Then the next heart beat sets in. In this synchronous way a resonant, standing wave of blood is established with a frequency about seven times a second. This harmonious mode requires for its sustenance a minimum amount of energy, which is an intelligent response from the body. In deep meditation a similar mode is established. It is interesting to notice that this mode of 7 Hz is closed to the Schumann resonance.
Standing waves Standing waves are a kind of echo, that moves back and forth, since the waves are reflected between two solid points, basically, a hamper or fixed string. For wind instruments with an open end, the impedance (the resisters from the air) works in a similar manner. There are also closed pipes, that resonates a bit different. When a fixed string is plucked, the potential energy is released in a transverse wave, that in a split second begins to displace a division of the string in different moving parts, where some points are not moving, which are called nodes.
How many nodes the string is divided into when it vibrates depends of the material, the tension, and especially how and where it is plucked or bowed ,etc, but here we try to get a general picture of the nature of standing waves in a plucked string.
When the potential energy is stopped in the fixed ends, the kinetic energy is at its maximum and continue in a 180° phase shift the opposite way. We have two waves with the same frequency and amplitude traveling in the opposite direction. Where the two waves add together or superpose, movements is cancel out and we have moving less nodes. That occur a half wavelength apart and constitute the standing waves. The repeating shifts between potential and kinetic energy in a moving string draws ones attention to a similar pattern we can observe in a pendulum and its simple harmonic motion. The numbers of nodes, the no moving points, in a standing wave, is equal to the number of harmonics or partials created in the standing wave. The same pattern can be observed with fine sand on a metal plate in vibration by a bow. The standing waves automatically divide the length and width of the plate into an integral number of half wave-lengths. It is only then, a standing wave can be sustained. That pattern is the most energy effective form nature can provide. (A similar pattern is the rhythm entrainment, where random oscillation after a while begin to oscillate in unison).
Standing waves can not exist unless they divide their medium into an integral numbers of half waves with its nodes. A standing waves having a fractional wavelength can not be sustained. The same standing waves pattern can be preformed in a 3 dimensional box too. This pattern will look just like a highly enlarged crystal, if we assume that the aggregated particles or grains in the box fluid are analogous to the atoms in a crystal. The key word in standing waves is order. In short, by using sound we have introduced order where previously there was none. Harmonics Any vibrating body that is set in a standing, resonant motion, produce harmonics. For musical sounds the harmonics series is usually expressed as a arithmetical proportion: 1,1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:6...1:n. The first and 2nd harmonics are separated by an octave, frequency ratio 2:1, the 2nd and 3rd by a perfect fifth (3:2), the 3rd and 4th by a perfect fourth (4:3), and 4th and 5th by a major third (5:4), and the 5th and the 6th by a minor third (6:5), and so on. A simple Harmonic motion is typified by the motion of a pendulum and is sinusoidal in time and demonstrate a single resonant frequency. The formula for The Harmonic Series is the sum, ∑ 1/n = 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4 + 1/5 +1/6 +…diverges to infinity, when n goes from 1 to infinity. Harmonics of the string Since the Harmonic Series is so important in the construction of musical scales, another common way to express the harmonics are: the fundamental f, then 2f, 3f, 4f, 5f....nf harmonic. More detailed way to explain the harmonics of the string. How Nature performed such a mathematical division, an arithmetic progression is beyond my apprehension, but it is surely a mighty prominent and well proofed law. Intuitively I feel that the number 2 or its inversion ½ is the mega number. Remember the integer numbers of ½ waves (nodes) in the standing wave. The harmonic series is special because any combination of its vibrations produces a periodic or repeated vibration at the fundamental frequency. The Harmonic Scale
Since the harmonic series plays such an important part in music it should be obvious to use the harmonic series as the notes in a scale. This is also true since the harmonic series contains all the possible intervals used in music, but the order in which those intervals appear does not properly constitute a musical scale. The main difficulty is, that all its intervals differ from one another and become smaller as the scale rise. The problem with modulation is obvious since each interval is not alike. Further, the need for a fixed structure to establish a musical scale, a body of harmony by the three prime intervals, can not be fulfilled by using the harmonic series as a musical scale. Nevertheless, the series of the first sixteen harmonics can be considered to form a mode, that is interesting in comparison with the musical scales used throughout the history of music. If we take as a basis C, we first notice the appearance of the octave, C', 2/1, then the fifth, G, 3/2, then the third, E, 5/4, then the harmonic Bb 7/4 - lower than the usual Bb, and forming with upper C', the maximum tone 8/7. After this appears the major second, D, 9/8, which forms with E, a minor second 10/9. Then come the harmonic F#, 11/8, A-, 13/8, and finally, the seventh, B, 15/8. The remaining eight of the first sixteen harmonics add no new notes, as they are at exact octave intervals from earlier harmonics in the series. We have to understand the way the harmonic series display itself in a chain of octaves, where each new octave contains twice as many harmonics as the last octave. By looking at the ratios, the denominator indicates the octave, the numerator states the number of harmonics in that octave. Considering only the first sixteen harmonics, we thus obtain a scale of eight tones formed of the following intervals: Notes Ratios Savarts C 1/1 D 9/8 51 E 5/4 46 F# 11/8 41 G 3/2 38 A13/8 35 Bb 7/4 32 B 15/8 30 C' 2/1 28
Notice that each interval gets smaller as the pitch raise. The Octave
This interval is the very most outstanding division of sound and music and is recognized in all musical traditions through time on the globe. The division of the octave has been done differently depending of musical tradition, but all over the world in all times the octave has been recognized as the basic unit that constitute a beginning and an end. Click for bigger graphic. Octave derived from Latin and means the eighth. It is the 8th step in the diatonic scale consisting of 7 tones, 5 full tones and 2 semi tones. The eighth tone in the diatonic scale, which is the most common in the world, complete the octave on a pitch, that in frequency is the double of the fundamental tone. Graphically one could say that an octave express or represent a circle. Several octaves shapes a spiral where the same fundamental is above or below. The straight out mysterious about octaves is that tones an octave apart sounds similar though the frequency is the double or the half. They contain so to speak to the same family; from the same root, unfolding in the spectrum of frequencies. They have the same Chroma. The whole time double up the frequencies in the ascending mode or halve in descending mode. Again we see the basic, universal division of one into two as we first refer to in the paragraph about the standing waves. Just remember the awesome sight of the pregnant egg-cell dividing itself. The law of octaves belong not only to the realm of sound but can be observed as manifesting itself though out Nature and above in astronomy. The Fourth The is a kind of a puzzle with the very harmonious Fourth, a prime interval with the ratio of 4 : 3. It is not represented in the first 16 harmonics in the series, though the 3rd and 4th harmonics are separated by a Fourth. It has taken me some time to figure it out. In order to understand the importance of the Fourth, we have to look at the previous prime interval, the Fifth with the ratio of 3 : 2. The 2nd and 3rd harmonics are separated with a Fifth. Those two intervals together constitute an octave. They are complementary intervals. Further more, by going down with a Fourth into the octave below, one reach the Fifth in the sub octave, which have the half of the frequency. In order words: a descending Fifth, 2:3, divided with ½ equals 4:3, a Fourth.
In the musical language the Fifth is called the Dominant and the Fourth the Sub-dominant and plays a very dominant role in music all over the world. In all the musical scales that are obtained by a the generating interval 3:2, the opposite movement by lowering by 4:3 make it possible to fit the generated intervals into one octave. Music and mathematic Music and Numbers are often said to be as brother and sister, different but related. In addition we have to relate to the numerical representation, which plays an important role in Eastern music but is ignored in the Western tradition. Composite sound A musical sound or a tone is a composite sound containing a multiple amount of overtones or harmonics. In musical practice the tone is not only depending of its pitch and amplitude (loudness), but also of its specific numbers of harmonics, (formats) which "color" the tones so each instrument or voice have their characteristic sound. This has nothing to do with musical compositions aiming to "paint" colors, or the blue notes in jazz music. Overtones originate from the German Obertone which refer to the various numbers of partials or harmonics that are produced by the strongest and lowest fundamental tone and fused into a compound or complex tone. Herman von Helmholtz formulated in his book "On the Sensation of Tone" from 1877, the theory about the consonant and dissonant intervals based on the numbers of beats there are generated, when two tones or a chord are played. It was first about 100 years later Promp could prove a more consistent theory, the Consonant Theory, which now is generally accepted. Harmonics In order to understand the composed tone one has to turn to a French mathematician from the 19th. Century, Jean-Baptiste Fouier, who in 1822 proved that any complex periodic curve or in this case any tone is composed of a set of sinus curves, that contains the fundamental sinus frequency, plus another sinus curve with the double frequency, plus a sinus curve with a triple frequency, and so on. A composed (periodic) tone contains a number of various multiple frequencies in whole numbers, integers, (2,3,4,5,6…25…) of the fundamental frequency. They are named harmonics. Each voice or musical instrument (Some wind
instruments, e.g. produce only odd harmonics) produces its own characteristic set of harmonics, also called formats, that makes the ear able to identify the sound because the ear and the brain also perform an Fouier analyze of the sound. Beats When two tones (or chords) are played simultaneously, another important acoustic phenomenon is taking place called beats. It can clearly be heard when the frequency of the two tones are close to each other as a periodical beat caused by the interference of the different waves, which alter the amplitude so an intensified rhythmic beating, floating tone is heard as a third tone. There are other interference patterns than beat frequencies, but this will do in this contest.
Some intervals or chords produce more beats in the higher harmonics than others and those are pick up by the ear as unclean, muddy or unpleasant and are labeled dissonant. The intervals which make fewest beats are called consonant, such as an octave, the perfect fifth, the perfect fourth, the three prime intervals, “The body of Harmony” as described by Aristotle; the basis for the musical scale. A general rule about sound ratios is, that the simpler the ratios between sounds are, the more their relations are harmonious, while the more complicated the ratios are, the more dissonant are the sounds. Pythagoras was the first in the West who formulated the law of musical pitches depending on numerical proportions. From this he based his underlying principle of "harmonia" as a numerical system bound together by interlocking ratios of small numbers. This discovery probably led him to the idea of the Harmony of the Spheres. His vision of "The Music of the Spheres" aroused deep emotions in me. It alludes to the seven planets known of that time, and has puzzled generations since it was declared. Johannes Kepler dedicated most of his life in order to solve that notion. The auditory system
The receiving part, the human ear, is equal important. The recent discoveries (The Consonant Theory) of the function of the basal membrane in Cochlea as a Fourier analyzer and the role the critical band plays in the perception of rough or smooth sound, dissonance and consonance, gives a consistent theory for some of the hearing functions. When the frequency ratios are narrowed down to such small intervals that our auditory system is not capable of differentiating, the harmonics become fused because of the critical band, a relatively new discovery, (around 197080 by Plomp a.o.) which refers to the overlapping amplitude envelopes on the basilar membrane in the Organ of Corti in the Cochlea. Trained ears are able to detect the harmonics up to the 6th or 7th harmonics. When the interval between two tones decreases, their amplitude envelopes overlap to an increasing extent. A rough, harsh tone will be heard, which anyone can hear when two notes with less than minor 3rd separation are played simultaneously. This is very shortly the key to understand the theory of dissonance and consonants, which is the foundation in the origin of scales. Breakthrough in the science of hearing. Helmholtz beat theories was commonly accepted for about 100 years, before the Noble Prize winning Hungarian scientist Békésy in 1960 made a new breakthrough by his discovery of the role the basilar membrane plays in the hearing of pitch. He derived by anatomical studies a relationship between distance along the basilar membrane and frequency of maximum response. A high frequency pure tone generates a wave that travels only a short distance along the basilar membrane before reaching its peak amplitude; the hair cells at the position of the peak are fired, and the brain receives signals from the corresponding nerve fibers. These fibers evoke a "high frequency" sensation. A low frequency tone generates a wave that travels most of the way to the helicotrema before rising to its peak amplitude and dying away. Signals from nerve fibers connected to this region of the basilar membrane evoke a "low-frequency" sensation in the brain.
Other theories than the above "place theory" have been brought forward, among them the "temporal theories", i.e. emphasizing the use of the timing information in nerve signals. Helmholtz dismissed The modern Consonance Theory of Plomp extended the discoveries of Békésy with some new important findings, that gave whole new meanings to the concept of hearing. The beat theory of Helmholtz was finally dismissed in favor of the well experimented and proven Consonance Theory, in which the ears Discrimination Frequency and its Critical Bandwidth plays an important part. The Critical Band. As the interval between two tones decreases, their amplitude envelopes on the basilar membrane overlap to an increasing extent. A significant number of hair cells will now be responding to both signals. When the separation is reduced, e.g. to a tone, the amplitude envelopes overlap almost completely, implying a strong interaction between the two sounds, which is heard as a harsh, rough sound: a dissonance. When two pure tones are so close in frequency that there is a large overlap in their amplitude envelopes, we say that their frequencies lie within one critical band. This concept has been of great importance in the development of modern theories of hearing and one must add gives a much better explanation for the ears determination of consonant or dissonant intervals. Placement Theory Here we will not dwell upon the theories of fusion of pure tone components and other acoustic phenomenon such as masking, but stating that the inner ear performs a partial frequency analysis of a complex musical tone, a Fouier analysis, sending to the brain a distinct signal recording the presence of each of the first seven or eight harmonic components; in addition the brain receives signals from the part of the basilar membrane activated by the unresolved upper harmonics. Several experiments by different scientists suggest that the brain determines the pitch of a complex tone by searching for a harmonic pattern among the components separately resolved in the inner ear. If the deviation from a true harmonic series is too large, the brain gives up the attempt to find a single matching set of harmonics. Then the components are heard separately, rather than as a fused tone.
This explains the "missing fundaments" in the harmonic spectrum of a bassoon playing E3, because the ear does not "hear" the fundamental tone, but the harmonic.
This is a brief résumé of those factors in hearing that are close related to perceiving an interval or chord. We will skip the many others acoustics phenomena, because we only here will try to make an account for the reasons musical scales are created as they are. Thomas Váczy Hightower, © 2002.
The Creation of Musical Scales, part II.
by Thomas Váczy Hightower.
My first search was to look at musical practice in ancient times, not only in Europe but all over the world. There were several other musical scales than the diatonic scale, where the semitones where located other places than mefa and si-do. In the Gregorian modals for instance the different placement of the semi tones creates the specific modes. Pentatonic Music In the pentatonic folk music semitones do not exist. By practice the people have found out, that the 5 notes scale gave the possibilities to play any key without significant disharmony. Theorists would say that the scale was composed of ascending and descending fifths only in two steps in each direction. A pentatonic scale can be played by only using the black keys on the piano.
After a study of ancient main cultural music, mainly Chinese and Indian, I realized how universal the concept of the octave was in every musical culture. According to Helmholtz, the Arabic and Persian scales, the Japanese and the Pacific scales are too within an octave. The division of the octave differ from culture to culture. Arab music divides the octave into sixteen unequal intervals. The Persians divided their octave into 24 steps, so they must have used quarter tones. From excavated Egyptian flutes a seven note scale C, D, E, F#, G, A, B, have been discovered, which is identical with the Syntolydian scale of ancient Greece. Japanese music used mainly a pentatonic scale.
Music was the cornerstone in the Chinese civilization, which was the longest living culture in history. It was considered to embody within its tones, elements of the celestial order. The audible sound, including music, was but one form of manifestation of a much more fundamental form of Super physical Sound. The fundamental Primal Sound was synonymous to that which the Hindus call OM. The Chinese believed that this Primal Sound, Kung or "Huang Chung" (directly translated "yellow bell") was, though inaudible, present everywhere as a Divine Vibration. Furthermore, it was also divided into 12 lesser Sounds or Tones. These twelve Cosmic
Tones were emanations of, and an aspect of, the Primal Sound, but were closer in vibration to the tangible, physical world. Each of the 12 Tones was associated with one of the 12 zodiacal regions of the heavens. Audible sound was conceived as being a physical level manifestation of the 12 tones. Sound on Earth was a kind of sub tone of the celestial vibration. They were believed to contain a little part of the celestial tones' divine power. "As above, so below", as the Egyptian Hermes Thot said. In the Lords prayer a similar wish is spoken. For the ancient Chinese the alignment with the divine prime tone was the emperor's most important task. The alignment of earth with heaven and man with the Supreme was literally the purpose of life. The entire State affairs and order was dependent upon the right tuning of the fundamental tone, the yellow bell, or Kung. As an ancient text warns: "If the Kung is disturbed, then there is disorganization; the prince is arrogant". If the Kung was out of tune, because the celestial realm has changed, disorder and inharmonious behavior in the society became obvious. Every instrument (also the measuring instruments) was tuned and utilized in accordance with the holy tone. The instrument, which could give to man the fundamental tone for a musical scale, which was in perfect harmony with the universe, was the key to earthly paradise, and essential to the security and evolution of the society. It became the Chinese Holy Grail. One legend tells of the amazing journey of Ling Lun, a minister of the second legendary Chinese Emperor, Huang Ti. Ling Lun was sent like an ancient Knight of King Arthur to search for a special and unique set of bamboo pipes. These pipes was so perfect that they could render the precise standard pitches to which all other instruments throughout the land could be tuned. That sacred tone, which relate to the Western modern pitch of F, was considered as the fundamental cosmic tone. The Chinese was aware of the slow changing cosmic influence and consequently the Kung has to change accordingly. The emperor had the task of tuning the Kung so it was in alignment with the cosmic tone.
Cousto has in his book, The Cosmic Octave, an interesting observation on this matter. He relates the Kung to the frequency of the Platonic Year. The duration of the Platonic Year, (The Pythagorean Great Year) is about 25,920 years and represents the amount of time the axis of the Earth takes to complete a full rotation. The vernal equinox is the point at which the equator (of Earth) intersects the ecliptic (or zodiac), which is the position of the sun at the beginning of spring - March 21st. The vernal equinox takes an average of 2,160 years to travel through one sign of zodiac. This period of time is known as an age. It is not possible to state exactly when one age is ending and a new beginning, because the signs overlap to a certain degree. The journey of the vernal equinox through each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac equals one great year of approx, 25,920 years. (Presently we are on the cusp of Aquarius as the age of Pisces is ending.) This amount of years is close to the high number of generating fifths when we come into a cycle of 25,524 notes. Cousto calculates the note of the Platonic year to be F in the Western Equal Temperament pitch, which is found in the 48th octave with a frequency of 344.12 Hz. or in the 47th. octave to be 172.06 Hz. Note that the corresponding a' has a frequency of 433.564 Hz. (Modern Western concert pitch is 440 Hz.)
Calculation: 31 556 925.97(the tropical year in seconds) * 25,920 (Platonic year). Since the length (of a vibrating string, or the period of time) is in reverse proportionality to the frequency, the length of the Platonic year in seconds shall be the denominator. The frequency is very low, so we will raise the frequency to the range of hearing by multiplying with the necessary amount of octaves, e.g. 48 octaves so we arrive to 344,12 Hz. (47 octaves will be the half, 172,06 Hz.) If we want to reach the spectrum of light, we multiply with 89 octaves which leads us to a frequency of 1/31 556 925.97 * 1/25 920 * 2 89 = 7,56 * 10 14 Hz. corresponding to a wavelength of 0.396 micrometer, which we perceive as violet near the ultra violet. This is the color of the Platonic Year. The complementary color to violet is yellow. Their fundamental tone was called the yellow bell.
It is a wonder for me, how the ancient Chinese could be aware of their sacred fundamental tone, Kung, to be in accordance with the Platonic Year and choose the great rhythm of the Earth.
Creation of a scale
It might be a surprise that the diatonic scale was the foundation for the ancient Chinese's and the Indians music, though the musical theory and practices differ from the Western.
For the old Chinese, their musical scale was developed by the circle of perfect fifths up to 60 degrees or keys, the 60 Lü, though they usually only used the first 5 fifths in their pentatonic music, because they knew that they represents the limit of consonance in modal music. In addition, the ancient Chinese saw a symbolic representation of the pentatonic scale rooted from their belief of music being the representation of the relationship between heaven and earth the five elements). The Chinese was Centuries ago well aware of the existents of our modern Equal Temperament. They dismissed such a tempered scale not only for its badly false notes, but mainly because the tuning was not in alignment with the cosmic tone. According to the book by David Taime, "The Secret Power of Music", 3 was the symbolic numeral of heaven and 2 that of the earth; sounds in the ratio of 3:2 will harmonize heaven and earth. As a way to apply that important concept, the Chinese took the foundation note, "Huang Chung", and from it produced a second note in the ratio of 3:2. A more in depth explanation made by Alain Daniélou in his "Music and the Power of Sound": "Music, being the representation of the relationship between heaven and earth, must quite naturally have this confirmation of a center or tonic (gong) surrounded by four notes assimilated to the four directions of space, the four perceptible elements, the four seasons, and so on. The pentatonic scale thus presents a structure that allows it to be an adequate representation of the static influence of heaven on earth. But a static representation of a world in motion could not be an instrument of action upon that world. It is necessary to evolve from the motionless to the moving, from the angular to the circular, from the square to the circle. To express the movements of the universe, the sounds will have to submit to the cyclic laws that, in their own field, are represented by the cycle of fifths."
The spiral of fifths
As we have already seen, the fifth is the third sound of the series of harmonics, the first being the fundamental and the second its octave. According to the formula of the Tao-te ching, "One has produced two, two has produced three, three has produced all the numbers", we can understand why the third sound, the fifth, must necessarily produce all the other sounds by its cyclic repetitions. The first to be produced will be the four principal sounds, which form comparatively simple ratios with the tonic.
For the sake of convenience we will use Western notes: I, C II, G = 3/2 III, D = 9/8 = (3/2)2 * ½ (lower an octave) IV, A+ ( a comma sharp) = 27/16 = (3/2)3 * ½ (lower an octave) V, E+ (a comma sharp) = 81/64 = (3/2)4 * ¼ (lower 2 octaves) To these five primary sounds, whose disposition represents the elementary structure of the perceptible world, the pentatonic scale, there can be added two auxiliary sounds: VI, B+, (a comma sharp) = 243/128 = (3/2)5 * ¼ (lower 2 octaves) VII, L+F# (sharpen a major half tone) = 729/512 = (3/2)6 * 1/8 (lower 3 octaves) The seven-notes Chinese scale
81/64 (4/3) 729/512
The notation is Western for the sake of convenience. See Chinese & Western Music.
The two auxiliary sounds - 243/128 and 739/512 - should not be used as fundamentals, though they are needed for transpositions, because they belong to the scale of invisible worlds, and therefore we can neither perceive their accuracy nor build systems upon them without going out of tune. ¤ Let us note here that the most striking difference between the system of fifths and that of harmonic relations to a tonic resides in the perfect fourth, which is an essential interval in the scale of proportions. The scale of fifths has an augmented fourth as its sixth fifth, (3/2)6. Instead of starting from C, we could had begun one fifth below, that is to say, from F, and we would have obtained this essential note without changing anything in our scale, except that, since we begin with a masculine interval instead of a feminine interval, the character of the whole system is modified. The five successive fifth, whether in an ascending or a descending series, represents the limit of consonance in modal music too. Beyond this limit, no interval can appear harmonious, nor can it be accurately recognized. A rule originating from the same principle was also known in medieval Europe, where the tritone was prohibited as diabolical, that is, as connected with forces that are supernatural and therefore uncontrollable. Folk music in its
pentatonic form had understood this too by only using the span of two fifths up and down. After these seven notes, the next five notes generated by the series of fifths are: VIII, bDb lowered a minor half tone, IX, bAb lowered a minor half tone, X, b Eb a minor half tone lower, XI, bBb a minor half tone lower, XII, F+ a comma sharp. We now have twelve sounds, which divide the octave chromatically into twelve half tones. The twelfth fifth (note 13) in a 7 octave span brings us back to the fundamental, but with a slight difference. It is higher than the fundamental by one comma, the Pythagorean comma (312 / 219 = 531,441/524,288, (5.88 savarts or 23.5 cents). It is, therefore, in our notation, C+, one comma sharp. In this way, successive series of twelve fifths will be placed one above the other at one-comma intervals, up to the 52nd fifth (note 53)which fill the octave. The Chinese continued the cycle of fifths up to 25,524 notes with a basic intervals of 0.0021174 savarts. This cycle is very near to that of precession of the equinoxes, or the Pythagorean Great Year, which is of 25,920 solar years. Why the Chinese continued so many octaves in the cycle of fifths, could have something to do with their reference tone, Kung. In practice, for reasons that are symbolic as well as musical, after the 52nd fifth (53rd note) the Chinese follow the series only for the next seven degrees, which place themselves above those of the initial seven-note scale, and they stop the series at the 60th note. The reason given is that 12 (the number of each cycle) * 5 (the number of the elements) = 60.
The scale of 60 Lü
The Chinese scale being invariable, constitute in effect a single mode. Every change in expression will therefore depend upon modulation, a change of tonic. Firstly the choice of gender: fifths whose numbers in the series are even, are feminine. The odd numbered fifths are masculine. The choice of tonic are depended of complicated rules and rituals, which main purpose is to be in accordance with celestial as well as earthly influx or circumstances. Accordingly, the Chinese has to choose the right key for the hour of the day and the month. Even during a performance.
It is a extensive scheme but to get an idea we can say that they corresponds to political matters, seasons, hour of the day, elements, color, geographic direction, planets and moon. This scale of fifths, perfect for transposition because of its extreme accuracy, also allows the study of astrological correspondences and of terrestrial influx in their Tone Zodiac. We notice that the Chinese scale is much identical with the Pythagorean tuning, which also was produced by generating a perfect fifth (3: 2). How the Chinese derived their scale goes back to 3000 BC, when the European stone-age man still was beating wood logs. The prevalent opinion in the West about our music superiority should hereby be moderated.
The Indian music system
The ancient Indians had a less formalized approach to their music than the Chinese. Generally speaking they emphasized the personal inner contemplation more than the outward organized rituals. One can say that they sought the inner alignment with the divine supreme by means of the sounds AUM or OM, which were (are) the earthly sound of the prime creator, Brahman. For the Hindus as the Chinese the spoken or chanted words were the carrier of some of the creating energy and composed by the prime Creator. Pronounced correctly it was believed that special words were able to alter humans thoughts and feelings and literally change and form physical matter. Raga is the basic form in classical Indian music. There is a whole system of Raga's, which differ respectively from the North India or the South. Originally there were only 7 Raga's. These may have been the remnant of an ancient reference to the seven Cosmic Tones. The seven principal notes, or savaras, connected with the seven main planets, and two secondary notes corresponding to the nodes of the moon. This brings the total number of notes in the scale to nine principal notes, which is related to the nine groups of consonants of the Sanskrit alphabet. The Raga system grants the musicians freedom of expression within the limitations of a certain inviolable mode. Since music was so important a force in altering phenomena upon Earth, they considered it would be unwise, dangerous, and perhaps even suicidal in the long run to allow musicians to perform whatever they wished. The Indian solution was then to apply a system of rules which, while effectively determining what type of music was performed and even its spiritual atmosphere and the period of the day, did not indicate the notes
themselves. This was a convincingly successful solution to the problem which the music of ancient civilizations always came up against. The Chinese's had a more rigid system. They created variations by use of instruments and especially in the expression of the single note. The dimensions of tone color, or timbre was highly developed in the East. The ear had to learn to distinguish subtle nuances. The same note, produced on a different string, has a different timbre. The same string, when pulled by different fingers had a different timbre, etc. Further more and very important, the whole spiritual being of the musician himself was crucial. That applies also to Indian music. As in the Western diatonic scale, the Indian scale was based on 7 main notes: SA, RE, GA, MA, PA, DHA and NI. If we goes back to the most ancient texts on music, the scales was divided into two tetra chords, similar to the ancient Greeks, and later put together with a whole tone (9/8) between Ma - Pa so a full octave was completed. The Indian notes relate coarsely to the Western ratios, though the tuning is very harmonious and create a world of difference. We have to emphasize that the use of harmony as we know it was and is not musically practiced. Here is a crucial point. The Indian music is modal. There is a strong relationship to the tonic. When a third is played it always relate to the third degree as in Western harmonious tradition the third has a relative position, because it can be the root, the fifth or third of a chord. Eastern listeners often make remarks such as "Beethoven symphonies are interesting, but why have all those chords been introduced, spoiling the charm of the melodies". The modal music of India is 'horizontal' as the Western is 'vertical'. The vertical, harmonious system, in which the group of related sounds is given at once, might be more direct though also less clear. The accurate discrimination of the different elements that constitute a chord is not usually possible. The modal, horizontal system, on the other hand, allows the exact perception and immediate classification of every note, and therefore permits a much more accurate, powerful and detailed outlining of what the music express. One can say that the attention span in the Eastern musical language has to be much longer since, in time, the different and distinct sounds adding up in the listeners mind creates the chords or the whole musical idea. Only then, by remembering with attention all the elements that constitute the musical image, the full meaning finally can be understood.
The Indian musical system operates with a combination of immutable and fixed pitch so the key can be recognized and variable notes. The 2nd ,3rd,4th, 6th and 7th notes are variable, but the 1st (Sa or Do) and the perfect 5th (Pa or Sol) are immutable and of a fixed pitch. The drone is accordingly often Do-Sol (Sa-Pa), which becomes the ultimate open chord containing all other notes within it as a series of subtle harmonics. This drone (a constant note or tonic), whether actually played on an instrument like the tampura or simply heard within oneself as the Om sound, is the constant reference without which no Indian musician would play.
One must not be confused by the vast use of micro intervals, sliding or bending the notes, prominent in Indian music. The musicians can freely use these microtones as private points, often moving freely between two notes as a kind of infinitely exploitable space, eventually returning home to the tonic of the Raga. The musician has a freedom to play tones as his inspiration demands so long as he obeys the sacred rules of types and its mood. The 22 Shrutis (degrees) Musical intervals can be defined in two ways, either by numbers (string lengths, frequencies) or by their psychological correspondences, such as feelings and images they necessarily evokes in our minds. There is no sound without a meaning, so the Indians consider the emotions that different intervals evoke as exact as sound ratios. The feeling of the shrutis depends exclusively on their position in relation to the tonic and indicate the key for the ragas. The 22 different keys or degrees encompass what the Indians consider the most common feelings and reflection of the human mind. They was aware of the division of the octave into 53 equal parts, the Pythagorean Comma, and its harmonic equivalent, the comma diesis, (the syntonic comma, the difference between the major and the minor tones). However, they choose the 22nd division of the octave based on the limit to differentiate the keys as well as psychological and meta physical reason. The symbolic correspondences of the number 22 and 7, (7 strings and main notes), could also play a part since the relationship between the circle and the diameter is expressed as the approximate value of Pi, 22/7. The modal or Harmonic division of the octave Indian music is essentially modal, which means that the intervals on which the musical structure is built are calculated in relation to a permanent tonic. That does not mean that the relations between other than the tonic are not considered, but that each note will be established first according to its
relation to the fixed tonic and not, as in the case of cycle of fifths by any permutations of the basic note. The modal structure can therefore be compare to the proportional division of the string (straight line) rather than to the periodic movement of the spiral of fifths. All the notes obtained in the harmonic system are distinct from those of the cyclic system, which is based on different data. Though the notes are theoretically distinct and their sequence follow completely different rules, in practice they lead to a similar division of the octave into fifty three intervals. The scale of proportions is made of a succession of syntonic commas, 81/80, which divide the octave into 53 intervals. Among those, 22 notes was chosen for their specific emotional expressions: Note Value in Interval Interval Name degree cents
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 1/1 256/243 16/15 10/9 9/8 32/27 6/5 5/4 81/64 4/3 27/20 45/32 729/512 3/2 128/81 8/5 5/3 27/16 16/9 9/5 15/8 243/128 0 unison 90.22504 Pythagorean limma 111.7313 minor diatonic semitone 182.4038 minor whole tone 203.9100 major whole tone 294.1351 Pythagorean minor third 315.6414 minor third 386.3139 major third 407.8201 Pythagorean major third 498.0452 perfect fourth 519.5515 acute fourth 590.2239 tritone 611.7302 Pythagorean tritone 701.9553 perfect fifth 792.1803 Pythagorean minor sixth 813.6866 minor sixth 884.3591 major sixth 905.8654 Pythagorean major sixth 996.0905 Pythagorean minor seventh 1017.596 just minor seventh 1088.269 classic major seventh 1109.775 Pythagorean major seventh Expressive qualities marvelous, heroic, furious comic love comic, love compassion comic, love love marvelous, heroic, furious comic marvelous, heroic, furious comic love comic, love love comic, love comic compassion compassion comic comic, love marvelous, heroic, furious comic, love
The ancient Egyptians
The ancient Egyptians had similar beliefs as the Chinese and Hindus. In their "Book of the Dead" and other sources it is stated, that God or his lesser servant gods, created everything, by combining visualization with utterance. First the god would visualize the thing that was to be formed; then he would pronounce its name: and it would be. From as late as the reign of Alexander II, a text dating from about 310 BC still has the God of Creation, Ra, declaring: "Numerous are the forms from that which proceeded from my mouth." The god Ra was also called AmenRa, with the prefix "Amen". The Egyptian priesthood understood well the word Amen, or AMN, and it was equated with the Hindu OM. Egyptian music as Greek have most probably had its roots in Indian music, or at least in that universal system of modal music of which the tradition has been fully kept only by the Indians. The pyramid can easy be a symbolic representation of Earth with its four perceptible elements and all its characteristics are regulated by the number four, the four seasons, four direction of space, etc. Especially the projection of the single into the multiple.
The Greek philosopher Pythagoras (570 - 490 BC) spent 22 years in Egypt mainly with the high priest in Memfis, where he became initiated to their secret knowledge of Gods. When the Persians conquered Egypt, he was kept in captivity in Babylon for 16 years before he could return to Greek and begin his teaching. I began to study the theory of the Pythagorean and their esoteric schools. Very little is known of them. Pythagoras demanded silence about the esoteric work. This historic school was founded in the Greek colony, Kroton, in southern Italy about 2500 years ago. I realized after dozens of books about the matter what an outstanding role that school had for the creation of the western civilization. He created an entirely new concept. Any person - man or woman - who had a sincere wish for knowledge could enter the school stepwise, with a number of initiations. The tradition of priesthood monopoly of knowledge of God was broken. Pythagoras' study of the moving string and his discovery of the harmonic progression of simple whole numbers was the first real scientific work and the creation of modern science. But his vision went far beyond present science in his deep understanding of the integration of the triad: A-science,
B-work on being, C-love and study of God. Something modern science could learn from. Nicomachus of Gerasa Nicomachus the Pythagorean (second century B.C.) was the first who wrote about Pythagoras legendary encounter with "the harmonious blacksmith" and the weights of the 4 different hammers being 12, 9, 8 and 6, that determined the variation in the pitches Pythagoras heard. This story illustrate how the numerical proportions of the notes were discovered. His methodical measuring of the hammers and how the sound was produced and related (collecting data), then making experiments with strings, their tension and lengths (repeating the findings and, with mathematic, formulating them into a law), was the first example of the scientific method. We will not dwell with the question about the force of the impact or the tension of the strings, which later was discovered as the square root of the force, but just stick to the proportion of weights and the pitches he heard, which led him to his discovery. Pythagoras' experiments led to the combination of two tetra chords, (two fourths), separated with a whole tone, 9/8, which constitute an octave. He changed the traditional unit in Greek music, the tetra chord, into the octave by an octachord.
In the time of Pythagoras the tradition was strongly based on the seven strings of the lyre, the heptachord. The Greeks considered the number 7 sacred and given by the god, Hermes, who handed down the art of lyre playing to Orpheus. The seven strings lyre was also related to the 7 planets among other things the ancients venerated. The lyre often, but not always, consisted of 7 strings comprising two tetra chords each one spanning the most elementary concord, the fourth, both joint together on the note mese. According to legend, a son of Apollo, Linos, invented the four stringed lyre with 3 intervals, a semi-tone, whole tone and a whole tone comprising a fourth; the fourth, "the first and most elementary consonance" as Nicomathus calls it, and from which all the musical scales of ancient Greek music eventually developed. Trepander of Antissa on Lesbos, born about 710 B.C., assumed a mythological status for his musically genius. His most lasting contributions was perhaps his transformation of the four stringed lyre to the instrument which became institutionalized by tradition to the heptachord. Trepander did before Pythagoras extend the heptachord from its minor seventh limits to a full octave, but without having to add the forbidden eight string. He removed the Bb string, the trite of the conjunct tetra chord, and add the octave string, E1 yielding a scale of E F G A C D E1. This arrangement left a gap of a minor third between A and C, and seemed to have enhanced the Dorian character of Trepander's composition.
Harmonia Only Pythagoras escaped censure for adding an eighth string to the ancient and venerated lyre because of his position as a great master and religious prophet. His purpose was to teach man the unifying principle and immutable laws of harmonia by appealing to his highest powers - the rational intellect and not to his untrustworthy and corruptible senses. Pythagoras altered the heptachord solely to engage man's intellect in proper "fitting together" harmonia - of the mathematical proportions. Plutarch (44-120 B.C.) stats that for Pythagoras and his disciples, the word harmonia meant "octave" in the sense of an attunement which manifests within its limits both the proper fitting together of the concordant intervals, fourth and fifth, and the difference between them, the whole tone. Moreover, Pythagoras proved that whatever can be said of one octave can be said of all octaves. For every octave no matter what pitch range it encompasses, repeats itself without variation throughout the entire pitch range in music. For that reason, Pythagoras considered it sufficient to limit the study of music to the octave. This means that within the framework of any octave, no matter what its particular pitch range, there is a mathematically ordained place for the forth, the fifth, and for the whole tone. It is a mathematical matter to show, that all of the ratios involved in the structure of the octave are comprehended by the single construct, which is 12-9-8-6. For the Pythagoreans, this construct came to constitute the essential paradigm - of unity from multiplicity. The arithmetic- and harmonic mean We see that 12:6 express the octave, 2:1; 9 is the arithmetic mean, which is equal to the half of the sum of the extremes, (12 + 6)/2 = 9. Further, 8 is the harmonic mean of 12:6, being superior and inferior to the extremes by the same fraction. Expressing this operation algebraically, the harmonic mean is 2ac/a+c, or in this series, 2*12*6/12+6 = 8. Among the peculiar properties of the harmonic proportion is the fact, that the ratio of the greatest term to the middle is greater than the middle to the smallest term: 12:8 >8:6. It is this property that made the harmonic proportion appear contrary to the arithmetic proportion. In terms of musical theory, these two
proportions are basic for division of the octave since the fifth, 3/2, is the arithmetic mean of an octave and the fourth, 4/3, is the harmonic mean of an octave. The principal of dividing the string by an arithmetical proportion is done by the formula: a:b is divided by 2a:(a+b) and (a+b):2b. The ancient Greeks did presumably such division in their studies of the singing string by the monochord The semi tone We have already seen that in the diatonic genus each tetra chord was divided into two full tones and one semi tone. A full tone derives from a fifth minus a fourth, 3/2 - 4/3 = 9/8. The semi tone will be 4/3 - (9/8 + 9/8), or 4/3 81/64 = 256/243. This semi tone is called leimma, and is somewhat smaller than the half tone computed by dividing (for musical ratios dividing means the square root) the whole tone in half: (9/8)½ = 3/2*2½ . The square root of 2 was for the Pythagoreans a chocking fact because their concept of rational numbers was scattered. (For me it represent the beauty of real science, because it revealed the flaws in the Pythagorean paradigm of numbers). Their own mathematic proved with the Pythagoreans doctrine of the right angle triangle, (the sum of the squares of the two smaller sides of a right-angled triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse), that in music as in geometry there are fractions, m/n, that are incommensurables such as square root 2, which can not be expressed with whole numbers or fractions, the body of rational numbers, but with irrationals numbers not yet developed. This discovery was hold as a secret among the Pythagoreans and led to the separation of algebra and geometry for centuries until Descartes in the 17th century united them again. For music it meant that there were no center of an octave, no halving of the whole tone, no perfect union of opposites, no "rationality" to the cosmos. Semi tone could be the "door" to other dimensions! My errand here is to give some clues to the meta-physical functions of semitones, which seem to involve the potential of shifting to a different world or to enter another dimension. The key to attain a different spiritual world exists in the search for the exact right tone, that resonates with that particular "door" to other dimensions and worlds. The human being contains more dimensions than just 3 spatial dimensions. Philolaus
We have to bear in mind that Pythagoras himself left no written record of his work; it was and is against esoteric principles. Either did those few students, who survived the pogrom of Pythagoras. It is one in the next generation of Pythagoreans, Philolaus (ca.480- ? B.C.), who broke the precept of writing down the masters teaching. However, Philolaus' records are lost, so it is Nicomachus fragments of his writing, in his Manual of Harmonics, that actually is the only source the posterity has. According to Nicomachus / Philolaus, the whole tone, 9/8, was divided differently than the Pythagoreans by representing the whole tone with 27, the cube of 3, a number highly esteemed by the Pythagoreans. Philolaus divided the whole tone in two parts, calling the lesser part of 13 units a "diesis", and the greater part of 14 units, "apotome". Philolaus had in effect anticipated Plato's calculations in the Timaeus! Timaeus by Plato Plato (427-347 B.C.) gave in his work Timaeus a new meaning to the Pythagorean harmonic universe by - in a purely mathematical method enclosing it within the mathematically fixed limits of four octaves and a major sixth. It was determined by the numbers forming two geometrical progressions of which the last term is the twenty seventh multiple of the first term: 27 = 1+2+3+4+8+9
The two geometric progressions in which the ratios between the terms is 2:1 and 3:1, respectively: 1-2-4-8 and 1-3-9-27. Combining this two progressions, Plato produced the seventermed series: 1-2-3-4-8-9-27. The numbers in this series contains the octave, the octave and a fifth, the double octave, the triple octave, the fifth, the fourth and the whole tone. The entire compass from one to twenty-seventh multiple comprises therefore four octaves and a major sixth. In numerical terms it contains four octaves, 16:1 * 3:2 (a fifth) * 9:8 (a whole-tone) equals 27:1. Plato then proceeded first to locate in each of the octaves the harmonic mean, the fourth, then the arithmetic mean, the fifth. By inserting the harmonic and the arithmetic means respectively between each of the terms in the two geometric progressions, Plato formulated mathematical everything Pythagoras had formulated by collecting acoustic data.
Plato did, however, independently of the Pythagoreans compute the semi tone in the fourth, which consist of two whole tones plus something, which is less than the half of a whole tone, namely 256:243, the "leimma". According to Flora Levin in her commentary of Nicromachus' "The Manual of Harmonics", Plato went further than Pythagoras by completing all the degrees in a diatonic scale:
Plato's calculations led to the inescapable fact of no center to the octave, no halving of the whole tone with rational numbers, no rationality of the cosmos. Nicomachus did his part of covering up the secret by misrepresenting Plato and putting off some of the shattering discoveries of irrational numbers to some future time. The semi tones in the different modes Pythagoras had practiced music long before he transformed the heptachord into an octachord that led him to discover the mathematical laws determining the basic structure of an octave. He had fully understood the therapeutic value of music in healing the body and soul. Most of all he knew the set of conditions for the melody. He recognized strongly that every tetra chord on which melody was based embodies the "natural" or physical musical progression of whole tone-whole tone-semi-tone. He maintained the fundamental structure of both tetra chords in his scale and for musical reason he understood that this distribution of intervals had to be maintained for all melodic purposes with their configurations and inversions. This was the foundation of the ancient Greek music, which further developed into The Greater Perfect System The confusion of systems The Greek music has an inherent confusion of musical systems. A mix of the cyclic system of perfect fifths (Pythagorean tuning), and the modal system (tetra chords). We can only get a very faint idea of what ancient Greek music really was about because European theorists through time have made errors and misunderstandings. In reality, the Arabs and the Turks happened to receive directly the inheritance of Greece. In many cases the works of Greek philosophers and mathematicians reached Europe through the Arabs. Most serious study on Greek music were written by Arabs scholars such as al-Färäbi in the tenth century and Avicenna a little later, while Westerners - Boethius in particular - already had made the most terrible mistakes. It is the Arabs who maintained a musical practice in conformity with the ancient theory, so to get an idea of ancient Greek music, we should turn to the Arab music.
The Pythagorean Tuning
The musical scale, said to be created by Pythagoras, was a diatonic musical scale with the frequency rate as: 1, 9:8, 81:64, 4:3, 3:2, 27:16, 243:128, 2. This scale is identical to the cyclic scale of fifths as the Chinese, if we take F as the tonic. It has 5 major tones (9/8) and 2 semi tones, limma (256/243), in the mi-fa and si-do interval. The third, 81/64, is a cyntonic comma sharper than the harmonic third, 5/4. The Pythagorean scale was based on the three prime intervals: the octave, the perfect 5th and the perfect 4th. "Everything obeys a secret music of which the "Tetractys" is the numerical symbol"(Lebaisquais). By generating 12 perfect fifths in the span of 7 octaves, 12 tones were produced. In order to place the tones within one octave, the descending perfect 4th (the subdominant) was used, and a 12 notes chromatic scale was made. He discovered what later was called the Pythagorean comma, the discrepancy between 12 fifths and 7 octaves gives (3:2)12 > (2:1)7. Calculated through, it is: 129.74634 : 128 = 1.014. Or in cents: 23.5. See more about Pythagoras' Comma.
Do not mistake Pythagoras' Comma for the syntonic comma, equal to 22 cents, which is derived from the difference between the major tone and the minor tone in the Just Diatonic Scale, or discrepancy between the Pythagorean third and the third in the harmonic series which is 5:4.
As far back as 2,500 years ago the Pythagorean figured out that it was impossible to derive a scale in which the intervals could fit precisely into an octave. The ancient Greeks explained this imperfection - the comma - as an example of the condition of mortal humans in an imperfect world. This fundamental problem with the 3 prime ratios: 2:1, 3:2, 4:3, - which can be formulated in mathematical terms as interrelated prime numbers which have no common divisor except unity - has been compromised in a number of different temperaments of the diatonic scale up to out time. In ancient Greek music several other modes were used based on the tetra chords with a span of the perfect fourth. Later two tetra chords were put together with a full tone in between so an octave was established. A number of different modes were used in practical music performance. The different placement of the two half tones made the different modes.
An account of ancient Greek contributions to musical tuning would not be complete without mentioning the later Greek scientist Ptolemy (2nd c. A.D.). He proposed an
alternative musical tuning system which included the interval of the major third based on that between the 4th and 5th harmonics, 5 / 4. This system of tuning was ignored during the entire Medieval period and only re-surfaced with the development of polyphonic harmony.
Gregorian church music From those ancient Greek modes the Christian Gregorian church derived their music, though their names were a complete mix-up of the original Greek names for their modes. What is important in this context is the placement of the two semitone's in the octave. They were placed differently in order to create different modes, that produced a special tonality or mood. The interaction between tones and semitone's made each characteristic mode. The Gregorian church music from the late Middle Ages developed an amazing beauty and spirituality. We owe the monks a debt of gratitude for their part - singing to worship the refinement of the soul and Divinity. A side effect was the healing power in the strong amount of higher harmonics, which vigourating effect Alfred Tomatis has described in my page, The Power of Harmonics. As long as the musical practice mainly was monophonic the amount of scales could be numerous. When the wish for harmonious polyphonic singing was appearing, the elimination of scales began because only the scales that were in agreement with the harmonics could be used. Polyphonic music The development in musical practice from monophonic to polyphonic and after the Renaissance (the end of 15th. century), to harmony, made it necessary to have especially the third harmonized. The Pythagorean third (81:64) is a syntonic comma larger than the harmonic third (5:4). The need for harmonizing the third in the part-songs became imperative as the polyphonic music became predominant.
Just Intonation - a scale of proportion
Since the major triad became the foundation of harmony in Western music, the Pythagorean scale has largely been discarded in favor of the Just Diatonic Scale, or the scale of Zarlino (1540-94). The frequencies of the notes in a root position major triad are given by the fourth, fifth and sixth harmonics in the harmonic series, i.e. the frequencies should be in the ratio 4: 5: 6. (1-5:4-3:2).
The Major Triad as a generator If we look at this triad as C, E, and G, the tonic, and associate it with its dominant G, B, D and the tonic’s sub-dominant F, A, C, each of which has one tone in common with the triad of the tonic, we obtain the complete series of tones for the major scale of C: 1, 9:8, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2, 5:3, 15:8, 2. This scale consist of three different intervals: major tone 9/8, minor tone 10/9, and major half tone 16/15. Therefore when tonic is changed, we shall obtain sharps and flats of different nature in order to keep the frame of the scale, and the very notes of the original scale will in some cases have to be raised or lowered by one comma (the difference between the major and the minor tone). The scale of Zarlino (Just Intonation) is basically a mix of notes generated by fifths, which allows right transpositions and notes which make correct harmonic intervals; so in practice, two different systems are used conjointly with the result of awkward transpositions.
Those how are familiar with Rodney Collin's "The Theory of Celestial Influence", will notice that the Just Intonation is the scale he applies to his great work on octaves by multiplying with 24.
The Mean Tone.
In musical practice, especially when playing with key-instruments or the simple modulation of keys, the Just Intonation causes many difficulties, mainly due to the fact of the major and minor tones. The two different intervals of a tone in this scale was for that reason modified during the 17th century into a mean or average of the major and minor tone. Since these two tones together equal a major third, the mean tone is equal to half of the major third or 193 cents. This temperament is not surprisingly called Mean tone temperament, or 1:4 comma mean tone. (The fifths are all equal, but have been tempered by 5.5 cents, a quarter of a syntonic comma) and was the most used temperament in Baroque-music. There were some problems with the enharmonic notes. The two diatonic semitones do not add up to give a (full) tone. The Mean tone semitones are 117.5 cents. So if one wishes to play in more than six major and three minor keys, there is trouble. This is because en-harmonically equivalent note will not have the same frequency. Additionally this temperament has some real
false notes, called the "wolf notes", due to the 3.5 cents short fifth, so the circle will fall short of closure by 12 x 3.5 cents = 42 cents.
The ultimate compromise appears in Equal Temperament, which is a circular temperament. The Pythagorean comma (as approximately 24 cents) made the circle too large. If the 12 perfect fifths -702 cents- are equally distributed but contracted with 2 cents each, the circle of fifths will be complete into a circle. In the late 17th and 18th centuries a number of circular temperaments were employed making use of this device. It is often said that J.S. Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues were written to demonstrate the effectiveness of Equal Temperament. However, recent research (Barnes 1979), has shown that he probably wrote them for a circular temperament similar to one devised by Werckmeister (known as Werckmeister III), where the distribution of fifths was unequal, some were 6 cents smaller, some were perfect. The Equal Temperament as we know it is completely equally distributed, slightly diminished fifths (700 cents), that in one blow eliminates the question about different frequencies of the enharmonic notes and modulation limitations. The octave is equally divided into 12 semitones of 100 cents. The frequency ratio for each of the semitones are the twelfth root of an octave: (2/1) 1/12 = 1.059463094.../1. This temperament has two scales, a major and a minor. The difference lies in the third, sixth and the seventh, which are a half tone lower in the minor scale. Note that the same intervals are present in the minor scale as in the major scale, although the order is different.
We will not deal with the harmonic minor scale or the melodic minor scale.
Let us make a comparison in cents of the above mentioned scales with the Just Diatonic Scale (Just Intonation) as base: C Just Diatonic 0 D 0 E 0 F 0 G 0 A 0 B 0 C' 0
Pythagorean Mean Tone Equal Temperament
0 0 0
0 11 -4
+22 0 +14
0 +5.5 +2
0 0 0
In the western culture Equal Temperament is now so established and its tonality so tuned in our ears, that it sounds just right, though the third and the sixth ought to give problems because they are pretty much sharper than the much pure and expressive Just Intonation.
The artificial Equal Temperament
The great German scientist from the 19th Century, Hermann von Helmholtz, who also was a capable musician, made a strong stand up for the Just Intonation scale. He claimed in his "On the Sensations of Tone" that..."continual bold modulational leaps threaten entirely to destroy the feeling for tonality". Further he states: "The music based on the tempered scale must be considered as an imperfect music... If we suppose it or even find it beautiful, it means that our ear has been systematically spoiled since childhood". Professor Helmholtz brought many examples of beautiful use of Just Intonation in singing by use of the English system "Tonic Sol Faists", which overcame the difficulties of modulation by using a different musical notation system. Strings- and wind instruments could also perform this; so can modern keyboards.
The discussions about Equal Temperament versus Just Intonation has continued up to present time. Daniel White has on his web page Tuning & Music Scales Theory made a in depth analyze of this matter concluding that ET sounds "sweeter" than JT.
Compare with the other scales we have gone over, the Equal Temperament has no definite relations between the sounds since it has lost its relationship with simple ratios. The more complicated the ratios are, the more dissonant are the chords. We have been used to the muddy sounds, but for people in the East who are trained in modal memory and clear harmonically relations, they can not conceive the meaning of Western music. The Equal Temperament has in spite of its obvious weakness made it possible for great composers to create beautiful music with extraordinary numbers of new chords and modulations. In the twentieth Century the tendency to move away from simple ratios of
the notes by sound ratios even far away from the Equal Temperament, appeared in the atonal music.
Modern Dodecaphonic music In modern times a number of atonal scales has been developed to serve the new dodecaphonic music (Schönberg, Berg, Webern), where classical notion of harmony and rhythm is dissolved. Basically the ancient diatonic scale with its five whole tone and two semi tones, has been replaced with a pure chromatic scale which is a main factor in the change from melodic tonal music to atonal dodecaphonic music. Though I am very fond of non figurative art, the modern atonal music is still difficult for me to enjoy spontaneously. Educated people assure me of the new beauty in contemporary music, which I can hear with my head, but not with my heart. I have, however, observed a certain indifference in the mainstream of classical music, and find myself attracted to the early European music and folk (World) music. My main objection to the atonal dodecaphonic music underlies in the detachment to the physical world. The scale belongs to the invisible realm because it is created by ratios far away from the small numbers, which are related to the perceptible world and basic emotions. In the ancient musical systems we have seen how keen the musical scale had to be related to the perceptible world represented mainly as small numbered ratios (low number of generating fifths in the cyclic system or simple harmonic ratios in the modal system) Cyclic and modal numbers In this world of five elements in which we live, no prime number higher than five can enter into a system of sounds representing melodic or harmonic relations. The Chinese system of cyclic fifths even refuse to get beyond the number there; all its intervals are expressed in terms of powers of two or three. The number for cyclic systems is 3.
Some modern theorists are using the terms 3 limit scale, 5 limit scale etc http://sonicarts.org/dict/just.htm
The introduction of the factor of five brings us to the harmonic modal scale, of which the characteristic intervals are the harmonic major sixth, 5/3, the harmonic major third, 5/4, the minor third, 6/5, the major half tone, 16/15 (24 /3*5), the minor half tone, 25/24, (52 /3*23 ) the syntonic comma, 81/80, (34 / 24 * 5), and so forth.
Comparing with the Equal Temperament, the tempered half tone is something like 1,059,463,094 / 1,000,000,000 against the major harmonic half tone 16/15. The number five "humanizes" the music. It makes the music an instrument of expression of the tangible reality. The introductions of higher prime numbers such as seven, would take us beyond this reality into regions, that are not within the scope of our normal perceptions and understanding. Seven is considered the number of heavenly as well as infernal regions. We have actually no means to know to which side it may led us! In my opinion you can only touch humans deeply, if you play harmonious or tonal music, because these tones belongs to the real world and the man who walks the Earth. The scale has to be more or less in accordance with the lower harmonics in the series. The way we hear and analyze sound is actually much the same as the standing wave in a string. The basilar membrane in the inner ear behave like a “string” and the “software” in the brain is designed to look for the harmonic series. It is the most agreeable - and most basic. What it all comes down to is, that the only measure for all phenomena is the human. Reference tone
Before a concert begins a reference tone, the concert pitch, is played so the instruments can tune their middle a'. In modern time the pitch is set to 440 Hz. by the second International Standard Pitch Conference in London 1938. It is a high pitch compared to the older concert pitch of 435 Hz. which was introduced by the French government in 1859 in cooperation with musicians such as Hector Berlioz, Meyerbeer and Rossini. The concert pitch has vary earlier depending of Country and time. In the book, "On the Sensation of Tone" by Helmholtz, a record of concert pitch in Europe covers many pages. The characteristic for the Western music is, that concert pitch is arbitrary. It has no relation to forces above man. There is no reference to earthly or celestial influx, but only an artificial standard. For the old Chinese the tuning of their fundamental tone, Kung, was a matte of outmost importance for their civilization and had to be in alignment with the Cosmic tone so the celestial influence could be channel into the society by music. We have earlier mentioned Cousto's calculations (in his book, The Cosmic Octave). He relates the Kung to the frequency of the Platonic Year. The note of the Platonic year to be F in the Western Equal Temperament pitch, which is found in the 48th octave with a frequency of 344.12 Hz.
The Indians method had a character of meditation since the musicians not only in the prelude had to tune his instrument to the keynote, he also attunes himself to it, and gives the audience the opportunity to do so too. This long introduction was essential since the musicians had to tune in to the "sadja", the everlasting, never ceasing tone. According to Indian tradition it stands for primordial vibration, which is called "nada" and express the universal OM. The OM sound, according to Cousto, corresponds approximately to the C sharp in the small octave of the present day tuning system (136 Hz) and corresponds to the 32nd octave tone of the Earth year. It means that by lowering 136 Hz tone by 32 octaves, the resulting frequency will be as slow as the amount of time it takes the Earth to circle the sun. It is interesting to note that the Indians arrived at this tone, which we can calculate mathematical, "simply" through intuition and meditation.
(The calculations is: A day consist of 86,400 seconds. A tropical year has 365,242 days = 31,556,925,9747 seconds. The reciprocal value multiplied by 232 = 136,10221 Hz.)
The concert pitch in western music, which is 440 Hz for the middle a, ought to be 435,92 Hz based on the note corresponding to the average solar day, according to Cousto.
"It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing" Those who are familiar with the jazz (swing) musician, Duke Ellington, will "hear" Ella Fitzgerald sing this song. The reason I will end on that note is to make clear, that music is more that scales and right tuning. Music contains of 4 major elements: melody, rhythm, harmony and interpretation or intention. Having this in mind I will continue with The Sound of Silence, where I will extend the law of octaves in to other realms than scales and tuning by an elaboration on the metaphysical properties of sound and music. Thomas Váczy Hightower © 2002
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